Located just off highway 401 at Hurontario, in the growing business area of Courtney Park, now home to some of Canada’s largest industrial facilities, the new Veritiv building is scheduled to be complete by around April 2017. It will amalgamate Veritiv’s three existing facilities in the Greater Toronto Area, bringing together some 350 employees. The project was led by Regional Vice President Jason Alderman, who became Veritiv’s leader in Canada when the company was formed in 2014 after a merger between xpedx and Unisource.
Alderman has been with Veritiv for 11 years after leading the company’s facilities supply business, which accounts for 55 percent of revenue generation in Canada, for a couple of years. He previously held various sales and production management roles, primarily in Canada’s Western region. Alderman sat down with PrintAction at the groundbreaking ceremony to discuss the Fortune 500 company’s growing influence in Canadian printing.
Why is this project described as an $70 million investment?
JA: The first year we are looking at about $8 or $9 million in some CapX to get this building up and going, and obviously the rent side of it to start. And then over the 15-year term, that we have taken out for this facility, it is $70 to $80 million investment overall.
What does this building say about Veritiv’s commitment to Canada?
JA: We are committed to growth is really what it means. We have an opportunity here to expand on our existing business which is already $106 million as it stands today. And we will have growth in all three core segments of our business: Commercial print, packaging and facilities. If we weren’t committed to Canada, we would not be making this investment today.
How will the new building change Veritiv’s footprint in Canada?
JA: About 1/3 of our sales will be sold and distributed out of this location once we move in. When we move in we will still have about 20 percent room for growth overall and it also helps us provide some new services that we are thinking of getting into for all three segments of the business. It really is an opportunity to expand the bundle that we already provide to our existing and new customers.
What are some of these new services?
JA: On the packaging side, we are going to have a little more room to showcase some of the packaging equipment that we previously did not have an opportunity to do. It also gives us an opportunity to bring in a little more inventory to support some of the investments, to support an expansion into the wide-format space, which is a growth media on the print side of the business. We are a little condensed right now in the facility we are at.
Which core business will grow most?
JA: This year we expect growth in all three segments. I know a lot of people are surprised by the fact that we are expecting growth in print. We believe that we continue to take share in the marketplace over the next four or five years to get ourselves up into the lead position in Canada from a share perspective.
We were not a packaging company in Canada if you look back over the past 10 years. In the last two years, we have really accelerated the growth there and we really believe that is where our greatest opportunity for accelerated growth is. But that also relates back to the print business where there is becoming a blurred line between what was traditional commercial print and now those printers are looking to get into some form of packaging world.
What will the facility in the GTA mean for the rest of country?
JA: We are making some minor changes such as moving out of our existing Ottawa facility, which is a bit older, into a brand new one to improve operational efficiencies and workflow, which keeps costs under control.
We are going to continue to look at our real estate portfolio that we have today and see if we need to make changes. But most of those changes are around upgrading facilities. We are not looking to close any facilities or reduce the footprint we have. We are going to continue on with the footprint we have today. We need it to continue to be a national provider to the print, packaging and facilities supply markets in Canada.
Is this your first major project since taking on Veritiv’s lead for Canada?
JA: There will not be bigger real estate project than this in Canada in the foreseeable future. It has been very rewarding for all of us and me personally.
With the growing range of investment options, PrintAction is producing a series of articles, called The pulse of print heads, to better understand one of the most-critical components of any production inkjet press. In Part 1, last month, we took a look at the relatively simple discussion of drop size, primarily because print head R&D and inkjet messaging for more than a decade focused on printing ever smaller drops of ink with the goal of improving overall inkjet quality, even as some commercial settings may require larger drops for higher volume work.
This month, Part II of The pulse of print heads focuses on the manufacture of print heads and how it relates to the adoption of inkjet presses for a wider range of commercial-printing applications. When a production inkjet system requires dozens of print heads each costing a few thousands dollars, for example, the manufacture of print heads also relates to the initial purchase price of inkjet systems and subsequent print head replacement costs.
Crystals, diaphragms and heat
The past few years have seen the rise of two important technical terms in relation to the key piece of hardware – print heads – of production inkjet presses: Nanotechnology and MEMS. Print head makers and their press-building OEM partners – if not one and the same – have put both nanotechnology and MEMS into play for decades now. Short for Microelectromechanical Systems, MEMS basically describes any type of microscopic device, particularly devices with moving parts.
MEMS manufacturing, therefore, relates more directly to piezo print heads that eject ink with moving mechanical elements, walls or diaphragms. Thermal print head manufacturing is experiencing similarly important advances, albeit with different process definitions, as developers of both print head types absorb massive upfront factory costs to propel the printing industry’s adoption of inkjet.
“When we talk about MEMS, Xaar talks very holistically about our whole product portfolio – older [print heads] and new stuff. The difference being that we now use silicon MEMS, as well,” says Jason Remnant, Product Line Manager with Xaar, which has built inkjet print heads since 1990. He explains silicon is more or less used to form the base of the print head, providing it with fluidic chambers before a film is applied with PZT (piezoelectric pumping components).
Xaar’s older generation print heads were built with what the company refers to as Bulk PZT that would be cut down to make the actuator ejection device, with control signals and a source of energy. The advances in silicon PZT manufacturing provides print-head makers with scalability and accuracy, resulting in an ability to fit more nozzles onto the given size of a print-head plate, with corresponding drivers, at less cost – even if the head may not be as durable as a Bulk PZT build.
In 2007, Xaar started working toward silicon-based MEMS production and in May 2016 introduced its next-generation 5601 print, which is also built with what manufacturers describe as Thin Film technology for holding PZT components. “It has to be biggest thing to come along from Xaar in a decade,” says Remnant. Over the past decade, print head developments ensured the mass adoption of wide-format inkjet for commercial work, as well as ceramics printing and print products with lower quality requirements like the inner pages of books, statements and forms. The commercial printing industry – with its many applications and quality demands – requires a print-head evolution that is well under way.
“The 5601 is a new platform of print heads that will absolutely drive the opportunity to digitize more print in the world,” says Remnant. In addition to reaching higher manufacturing levels at smaller micro-scales (nanotechnology), the new generation of print heads for commercial work, packaging and laminates, need to jet fluids other than solvent and UV. Remnant explains the 5601 can jet low-viscosity fluids, including aqueous and latex-type inks, which also opens up inkjet to the world of textiles.
To deploy the 5601, Xaar is working closely with Ricoh, which holds significant press interests in commercial and high-speed printing markets. “Past print heads have included silicon MEMS techniques and now new designs are being developed. MEMS and thin-film technology are not changing Ricoh’s print head position, but rather, these two technologies are enhancing and expanding Ricoh’s inkjet print head capabilities,” says Joseph Ryan, Director Business Development, Ricoh Printing Systems America.
The most-advanced print head manufacturing models today integrate components to create more of a print chip than a print head. “MEMS is a bit of a misnomer for HP thermal inkjet technology,” says Ross Allen, Senior Technical Specialist, HP Inkjet Technology Platform, who first joined the company as an engineer in 1981. “There are no moving mechanical elements in an HP print head. The ink is the only moving part. So, HP thermal inkjet is a MicroElectroFluidic System, and that term is not in common use.”
HP builds its newest generation of print heads with silicon and photolithographic polymer technologies. Allen explains this allows the entire print head, including on-board electronics, to be built with technologies that were originally developed for manufacturing integrated circuits like computer chips. HP’s MicroElectroFluidic advances resulted in the launch of its Scalable Printing Technology (SPT) around a decade ago. Allen explains SPT enables fine structures, both electronic and fluidic, to be defined, precision-aligned and built on a silicon substrate.
Just as Xaar faced limitations producing Bulk PZT, HP also previously faced manufacturing challenges with its original thermal heads because they employed separately fabricated nozzle plates that had to be mechanically aligned and adhered to a silicon substrate with fluidic channels and chambers. Allen explains more complexity came from the use of different material properties, such as thermal expansion between an electroformed nickel nozzle plate and the silicon (polymer) component.
“By building fluidic – ink – chambers, passages, and nozzle plates out of the same photo-imageable polymer in layers up from the surface of a silicon wafer – with its electronic circuits – larger and more complex print heads may be produced,” says Allen. “HP thermal inkjet print heads are essentially integrated circuits that eject ink.”
Like Xaar’s 5601, Epson’s PrecisionCore and Fujifilm Dimatix’ Samba technology, HP SPT is print head platform, meaning it continues to receive R&D dollars to include what Allen describes as smaller fluidic structures: Smaller drop generator chambers, ink passages, nozzles and built-in filters that catch particles in the ink.
“This means that current generations of an HP print head chip – typically about an inch long – can have thousands of identical nozzles and deliver two or four different colours of ink. These chips are placed end-to-end, staggered – and with a small overlap – to build print heads that are 4.25- and 8.5-inches wide.”
Compact nozzles and zones
The ability to design nozzle-dense print heads – and manufacture them on a grand scale – is critical for inkjet-press adoption in commercial printing for a number of reasons from quality to cost. Technically, nozzle-dense heads allow press makers to build larger format presses with smaller print zones. Xaar’s 5601 is built in a Z-pattern to interlace the print heads and reduce the printing area of – ideally – a single-pass inkjet press built by one of its partners.
A smaller print zone reduces potential printing complications with fast moving paper. “Being able to assemble a number of print heads into large arrays allows large systems to be assembled,” says Ryan. “Aligning print heads, especially in high-resolution printing applications, has always been a challenge to system designers. Almost all print heads have alignment techniques using precision locating pins, flat control surfaces, and incorporating physical configurations, such as Z forms and trapezoidal configurations for interlocking and alignment.”
Employing traditional print heads in a single-pass production inkjet press, explains Xaar’s Jason Remnant, typically required staggering the print heads on a print bar to address issues like number of applicable colours and redundancy, particularly as press format sizes increased. Staggering heads can equate to deeper print bars, which in turn increases the print zone. “A small print zone is really critical because it has a [reduced] cost on the build of your machine and it also has a big influence on the print quality of your output,” explains Remnant. “If you are making a huge single-pass printer and it turns out that your print zone is two-metres wide, you have to control your substrates [to] get them from the first colour all the way to the nozzles of the last colour – and [the paper must] be where you expect it to be, so the drops end up where you want them.”
Challenges of running a larger print zone are exacerbated, explains Remnant, because it allows for more swelling when paper is hit with fluids, particularly if absorbing water. “Part of the design of this  head was to allow the OEM to make a very compact print zone and, in fact, the concept for a four-colour system with our print speed would actually mean you are printing quicker than the swelling of the paper.”
The application of staggered print head bars, of course, becomes efficient when building integrated print chips with super-packed nozzles. For the first generation of print heads used in the HP PageWide Web Presses, Allen explains nozzles were spaced in two offset columns of 600 nozzles per inch to print at 1,200 dpi across the web. “The newest generation of HP print heads, called High Definition Nozzle Architecture, places small drop weight nozzles between the original high drop weight nozzles for dual drop weight printing. Across each ink feed slot – a slot through the silicon chip that supplies ink to the fluidics layer – these print heads feature 2,400 nozzles per linear inch,” says Allen. “A low drop weight nozzle prints in the same dot row as a high drop weight nozzle across the ink feed slot, so the printing resolution is still 1,200 dpi across the web.”
HP’s print head build with integrated circuit technologies means many hundreds of its print head chips can be made on one silicon wafer. “This leads to large economies of scale in manufacturing,” says Allen, “where many different print head series can be built in the same HP factory.” Economies of scale provided by today’s print-head manufacturing results in lower-cost products that will ultimately affect the price of production inkjet presses and introduce a wider range of lower-cost, smaller-format systems for commercial printing. With growing use of total-cost-of-ownership investment models, printers should also consider the cost of replacing silicon-based print heads.
“I don’t see any breakthroughs coming in any inkjet technology that could be considered a dramatic reduction in replacement cost. HP SPT already delivers manufacturing economies of scale that are reflected in print head price,” says Allen. “What could happen to reduce effective print head cost-to-print is longer print head life, which drives down cost per square metre. Of course, HP and others are always working to develop longer life, more reliable print heads, but lower prices will be evolutionary and not a dramatic breakthrough.”
At the upcoming Canadian Printing Awards gala, taking place on November 10, 2016, at the Palais Royale in Toronto, PrintAction magazine will honour four individuals who have had a significant impact on the Canadian printing industry. The gala is expected to attract more than 200 industry leaders from across Canada, as well as attendees from the United States and Europe.
Now entering its 11th year in 2016, the Canadian Printing Awards program is designed to recognize printing innovation in the country through three distinct awards sections, grouped in Printing, Environmental and Technology categories, which are determined by an independent panel of judges.
In 2008, PrintAction introduced the Industry Achievement Awards to the program to honour outstanding leadership as demonstrated by members of the Canadian printing community.
Three of the four 2016 Industry Achievement Award recipients, determined by PrintAction magazine, include:
Printing Leader of the Year
President, PDI Group Inc., Montreal, QC
Director, Quebec Graphic Arts Association
Secretary-Treasurer, Canadian Printing Industries Association
Emerging Leader of the Year
Vice President, Cober, Kitchener, ON
John A. Young Lifetime Achievement Award
Founder, CanWin Consulting Inc.
Former Director, Xerox Research Centre of Canada, Mississauga, ON
Community Leader of the Year
Jeff Ekstein, President, Willow Printing Group Ltd., Concord, ON
For more information about the 2016 program and gala, please visist Canadianprintingawards.com
In hindsight, Web 2.0 is now the descriptor for the foundation of user-generated content manifested most obviously as billion-dollar social media platforms. It has created completely new businesses amassing enormous wealth – in a matter of years as opposed to decades – as younger generations successfully tap into a robust online economy.
Industry 4.0 is a much more relevant evolutionary term for the printing industry. Unlike Web 2.0, which certainly drove the Internet to become a GDP factor, Industry 4.0 ultimately involves the deployment of tangible goods, factories, machines and equipment.
The Internet of Things is an important business term to understand, but perhaps more of an acknowledgement for the revolutionary – existing – network infrastructure built by the likes of Cisco, Sun and Oracle. Industry 4.0, which includes The Internet of Things amid its most prevailing and complicated definitions, is a term to describe the new wealth to be generated from an overdue return to industrialism.
For more than 50 years, the greatest business innovations to emerge out of stable economies have been generated around computing, from software and graphical user interfaces to processor chips and communications networks (both micro and macro). As Moore’s Law reaches its limit, which Intel’s CEO stated to be a reality in 2015, Industry 4.0 arrives for business visionaries to begin leveraging decades of computing power to drive industrial equipment.
Elon Musk, who was born in South Africa but also holds Canadian and American citizenships, is the ultimate Industry 4.0 visionary. In 1995, Musk and his brother, Kimbal, used a small family loan to start Zip2 and develop online city guides for newspaper publishers, leading to contracts with The New York Times and Chicago Tribune.
In 1999, Compaq acquired Zip2 for $307 million in cash and, within weeks, Musk’s proceeds co-founded an Internet-based financial services company called X.com. A year later, X.com merged with Confinity, which held a money transfer service called PayPal. Musk was PayPal’s largest shareholder when eBay bought it for $1.5 billion in 2002. Within weeks, Musk founded a new company called SpaceX with the ambitious goal of jumping the commercial space industry by building rockets.
With NASA’s retirement of its Space Shuttle program and mounting U.S. tensions with Russia, whose Soyuz rockets are today relied on by most space agencies to carry cargo and people beyond Earth’s gravitational influence, Musk saw opportunity to undercut the dormant astronautic activities of Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Focused at the time on aeronautics, these defense giants reacted by forming the United Launch Alliance (ULA). Today, with a base $1.6 billion NASA contract for 12 resupply flights, it costs SpaceX around $60 million to launch a payload aboard one of its Falcon 9 rockets. A ULA launch costs around $225 million – Space Shuttle missions were upwards of $1.5 billion per launch, depending on cargo.
Driven to make money, SpaceX developed a reusable Falcon 9 rocket (first stage) that in 2016 has twice successfully returned to Earth, landing on barge in the middle of the ocean after delivering an ISS payload. A SpaceX launch burns relatively little in fuel ($300,000), meaning there are significant cost savings with a reusable first stage rocket. The company estimates it would save 30 percent, around $43 million a launch.
Commercial space company Blue Origin, controlled by another online magnet in Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos, has also successfully landed reusable rockets, although much smaller. None of this would be possible without taking advantage of Industry 4.0, applying incredible processing power to industrial equipment.
Tesla is another prime example of Musk’s Industry 4.0 leadership, applying processing power to self-drive his battery-powered Tesla cars. Robotics will play a major role in Industry 4.0 and happen to be a Canadian specialty – driven by the Canadian Space Agency.
Robotics will become a force for all manufacturing. Industry 4.0 is well underway and it is a positive development for the printing industry, which has lived on the edges of this business term for decades, processing billions of bits and bytes to million-dollar machines, offset, inkjet and toner. An industry that spent the past two decades forcing its machines to speak fluently with each other is ready for Industry 4.0.
As CTO of Global Graphics for the past decade, his knowledge is infused into the ubiquitous Harlequin RIP. PrintAction spoke with Bailey about the company’s new Fundamentals program to help inkjet press manufacturers overcome technical hurdles.
What is Global Graphics Fundamentals?
MB: For the last several years, a number of inkjet vendors have approached us with questions on whether we can help them build DFEs to go with inkjet presses that they have created or solve problems around the speed or quality on presses they are already shipping. And now Eric Worrall is heading up our [BreakThrough Engineering Service] and we’ve essentially formalized what we had been doing in a more ad-hoc manner. [Fundamentals] is designed to allow a press vendor to bring a new press to market more quickly and to be more confident that it is actually going to deliver the speed and quality and functionality that they want to provide to their users.
What area is of most concern for inkjet?
MB: We have talked quite a lot over the last couple of years, in particular, about halftone ink quality of using greyscale heads on single-pass inkjets. It is an area that a lot of people seem to be struggling with.
Why is there little inkjet screen discussion?
MB: There [is] very good technology in the wide-format space – multi-pass, fairly slow speeds, with many inks and levels of droplet size on the heads... but we do not see people doing significant work on the half-toning in the high-speed, single-pass production space. We do find that there are real problems there. That the drop placement isn’t as accurate as you would really like it to be, partly because of dot shape deformations, because you get elliptical marks where the drop actually hits because the substrate is moving so rapidly.
You tend to have pseudo random coalescing of adjacent dots. It is quite not random enough though. There tends to be a directionality to it, so that at normal reading distance you get a visible texturing. We have been working with three or four press vendors for a couple of years now to improve the output they can produce on their presses – to absolutely minimize the texturing effects and simultaneously ensure we are hitting the maximum total area coverage, ink lay down.
What is the best screening approach?
MB: There are good reasons to do the screening in different places depending on the workflow. In many cases, it makes sense to do the screening inside the RIP, if you can, simply because you are moving less data around post-RIP... When you consider that the fastest inkjet presses at the moment consume something around 20 gigabytes of raster per second then reducing that data transport requirement is a very significant gain.
But, in other cases, there are good reasons why people want to do the screening at the last minute in order to do on-the-fly recalibration, or head-to-head calibration, because of the width of the press, etcetera, and do that in a near close-loop environment… There are people who are using other people’s RIPs and unhappy with the quality they get from the screening or the speed they get at the screening. It is a very useful first step for them to say, ‘I am going to throw away the screener that came with the DFE… I am going to plug in Global Graphics ScreenPro because it is a lot faster and gives the quality I need.’
How are inkjet speeds and DFEs related?
MB: Building a DFE for one of these very, very high speed [inkjet presses] requires as much emphasis on systems engineering as it does on the RIPping, colour management, etcetera… that is hitting 1,000-feet-per-minute speed, which is aqueous. A lot of the people we tend to be working with at the moment are on UV and it is coming out at about 230/250 feet per minute. So far it is a lot slower than aqueous. I do not know if it is going to stay that way.
When will inkjet move deeper into commercial print sectors?
MB: They are pecking away at a number of different sectors to start with… Obviously, the direct-mail market as a sort of adjunct to the transactional space, where inkjet has been used for decades, but now pushing into much more graphically rich work.
They are being used in the book and publication space. It is also being used in some of the newsprint markets, which is kind of relating to book. It hasn’t really gone into magazines yet, because it is only fairly recently that aqueous inkjet presses have got to the point where you can print at a sensible price on coated paper. That has been a fairly big breakthrough in the last year, 18 months.
The continued growth of inkjet printing systems was once again the major force at drupa, eight years removed from the cutting-edge system introductions of Fujifilm’s cutsheet Jet Press 720 and HP’s PageWide web press platform, which presented new possibilities to a sector largely dominated by the continuous-feed systems of Océ and Ricoh. At drupa 2012, another range of primarily concept production-inkjet machines were introduced by powerful players like KBA, Komori, Konica Minolta, Landa, Miyakoshi and Xerox.
At drupa 2016, all of these companies and many more had expanded their production-inkjet platforms with serious new players like EFI and Heidelberg joining the mix, setting sights on the packaging world. Several new technology partnerships between paper-transport experts (offset press makers) and print-head developers speak to a concerted effort to drive inkjet into the mainstream.
The past decade of inkjet R&D investment alone, collectively stretching into the tens of billions of dollars, by so many prominent technology suppliers rings the loudest chorus of reality – inkjet is building a new foundation for the future of printing. Still, the question remains with most printing companies for when inkjet systems, even with an ability to match 40-inch format size (unlike toner’s electrophotographic drum), will be ready for prime time in the commercial printing market. Key issues like quality and speed, press and consumable costs, have been a major challenge for the mass adoption of inkjet, even as this fascinating printing process has been disrupting pockets of publishing, transactional and direct-mail printing.
Commercial print influence
Alec Couckuyt is one of Canada’s most-experienced printing leaders in the field of digital printing. Twenty years ago, serving as Vice President of Direct Marketing at Transcontinental’s innovative Yorkville plant, Couckuyt was driving variable data to Xeikon’s Chromapress to produce personalized automobile booklets. Building files from VIN numbers, the facility printed cover forms featuring specific car models and colours, while also applying variable text and dealership locations, to entice customers into a new rig before their leases ran out.
“We were forerunners at that time, but it was far from being fast enough and you had to be in a highly controlled environment,” recalls Couckuyt, who was also integrating inkjet print heads on web presses at Yorkville. “Twenty years later, look at how far we have come… you can feed [an inkjet press] with so much data and the output is so cost efficient. The sky is the limit and this is an exciting time.”
Prior to his digital-printing work with Yorkville, Couckuyt began his career in 1983 as a Product Manager for Agfa Canada, ultimately serving as the company’s Vice President of Graphics Arts Systems for 10 years until joining Transcontinental in 1996. Today, as Senior Director of Canon Canada’s Professional Printing Solutions Group, he holds a unique knowledge set to describe the adoption of production-inkjet systems in Canadian commercial printing.
“We are targeting commercial printers right now with the experience that we have acquired in the transaction market, combined with the quality levels that inkjet has reached, when you talk about the VarioPrint i300 and the ImageStream, as well as the capabilities of printing on coated offset stock,” says Couckuyt. He joined Océ in 2008, as Vice President of Production Printing Systems, shortly before the company (purchased by Canon in 2012 for approximately $1 billion) installed one of Canada’s first web-fed production inkjet systems.
“We have more than eight years of experience with a similar technology that has evolved to a point where it is now ready for prime time in commercial printing,” he says. “You always have to take into account the volume, the production capabilities of equipment, and I think there is bigger potential for cutsheet inkjet devices in the Canadian market, more so than continuous-feed inkjet.”
Near the back of Canon’s drupa 2016 booth, the company ran a new web-fed ImageStream inkjet press, which is a class of technology Couckuyt feels some commercial printers will look at depending on their needs. “It is the same technology,” he says, relating the VarioPrint i300 to the ImageStream platform. “You are using 1,200 x 1200 native inkjet heads, combined with smaller droplets, different types of inks, coated stocks, proper drying systems, and now you are playing into the commercial printing field.”
Web-fed inkjet, traditionally referred to as continuous-feed systems, has a significant existing install base because its paper transport naturally runs substrates much cleaner through the imaging system, whereas a turned-up ear can easily jam a cutsheet press. This cutsheet inkjet challenge is being addressed, however, as offset press makers become heavily involved with inkjet development. Despite the experience advantages of web-fed systems, Couckuyt points to the business realities of Canadian commercial printing, which for decades has been built around cutsheet workflow. “It would only be a logical step to also add an inkjet cutsheet device,” he says. “Basically, it offers quite a bit of additional application opportunities to the commercial printer.”
Downtime becomes uptime
“When you run an offset press, you are always making sure that you have the least downtime possible, which must be minuscule when you look at your total production time,” says Couckuyt. “In digital printing, people talk about uptime – just the opposite. If they had 50 to 60 percent uptime [on toner] they were happy, but that doesn’t cut it for an offset printer.”
Canon’s cutsheet VarioPrint i300 system is promoted as having an uptime of more than 90 percent, often approaching 95 percent: “Now you are talking about a production machine – in addition to the quality and capabilities of printing on multiple papers – that fits right into the offset world,” says Couckuyt. “Those factors are extremely critical and the reasons why we believe it is ready for the commercial printer.”
To improve cutsheet inkjet uptime, for example, the VarioPrint i300 is a self-contained system, meaning it is temperature and humidity controlled, and all external elements have been eliminated (a noticeable trait looking at the body of the machine). Even the input trays of the i300 are sealed for temperature control. The unit has to be decompressed when opening up its doors. With its doors open, the first thing you notice about the i300 is a massive drying system. Canon engineers ultimately surmised a sheet needed to travel in the drying system for two seconds at full running speed to properly condition the paper – hitting it with infrared, conventional heat and air systems – before reentering the duplex imaging system.
Couckuyt explains this unique drying system is critical because operators do not need to slow down the i300 when applying heavy ink coverage. “It is actually a production machine and it is built in such a way that even if you have high coverage you will not slow down the press,” he says. To further improve uptime, the i300 employs a Sentry Unit that ejects wavy, earmarked or unwanted papers, again at speed, before first entering the imaging system. “A jam in digital printing on a cutsheet device is always your biggest nightmare.”
Commercially released more than a year ago, there were 42 i300 systems installed globally before the opening of drupa 2016, which actually marked the system’s availability in the Canadian market. A key new feature of the i300 introduced at drupa is called ColorGrip, which applies a primer specifically where expensive inkjet ink needs to go, instead of blanketing the sheet.
A critical goal for all inkjet system developers, particularly for commercial printing adoption, is to improve their inks to a level that can more easily adhere to both coated and uncoated papers without the need for applying a primer. This will take time, but systems like ColorGrip, which actually immobilizes the ink to stop it from convalescing into big, ugly dots, are providing a vastly superior level of quality output than older generation inkjet systems. “ColorGrip keeps the right colour in the right position,” says Couckuyt, “so you are basically extenuating and giving more pop to your colour – Even a good sheet, you make a lot better.”
One of the greatest advantages of digitized sheetfed offset presses, and why the technology remains core to the vast majority of printers, is application flexibility – an ability to throw almost any commercial print job at it, regardless of ink coverage, stock or format. For a printer to invest more than a $1 million into an inkjet press, even if today’s systems can handle a greater range of work, it becomes critical to understand the production cost of specific applications.
“With the VarioPrint i300, where it becomes viable for a commercial printer to enter into that field, you are looking at a million and up impressions per month – all the way up to 10 million,” says Couckuyt, explaining a typical web-fed system requires at least five million impressions to become a viable investment.
“We spend an extreme amount of time with the customer before a sale takes place,” says Couckuyt. Canon will run a job file from a printer’s existing offset infrastructure at its Océ facility in Boca Raton, Florida. “We will make a complete analysis of the files, ink consumption, press time, everything, so that the client really knows in advance what they are embarking on.”
Installed at the beginning of 2016, the EFI 1625H is described as a mid-level production printer with four colours plus white and 8-level grayscale capabilities, as well as LED drying. The system handles flexible and rigid substrates up to 65 inches (64-inch printing) and up to 2-inches thick. The company is also running 3M cobranded inks for MCS Warranty.
The company’s new swatch-book collection of printable magnetics features samples of Magnum’s most-popular substrates, including pre-magnetized DigiMag in a range of weights, RubberSteel regular black and write-on white, and MessageMag magnetic adhesive substrate.
Huge Paper provides a range of magnetic substrates in the Greater Toronto Area, which can be applied in both digital and litho printing processes. Magnum Magnetics substrates are describes as meeting all North American safety standards including those for toys.
Magnum Magnetics is the largest manufacturer of flexible magnetic products in the United States including printable magnetic sheets and rolls used in a variety of industries and applications.
Following this preeminent Canadian printing contract, McLaren Morris and Todd (MM&T) burst into North American printing notoriety when the company’s owners took a chance on a new, struggling client trying to manufacturer their Trivial Pursuit board game – created in 1979 in Montreal by Chris Haney, a photo editor for Montreal's The Gazette, and Scott Abbott, a sports editor for The Canadian Press.
With MM&T’s crucial manufacturing partnership, Trivial Pursuit would become a global phenomenon, peaking in 1984 when more than 20 million games were sold across the continent. Building on its greeting card and Trivial Pursuit growth, as well as the 1980s boom in collector cards, MM&T began to shift its primary focus onto the production of labels as the company was purchased by Al George and John Morris in 1993 – with previous, second-generation owner Southam retaining a 30 percent interest.
The leadership of George and Morris, who would purchase the balance of Southam’s interest in 1995, would set the foundation for one of North America’s leading label-printing operations, which ultimately led to its purchase by Mail-Well (Cenveo) in 1998. At the time, MM&T had sales of approximately $50 million. Commenting on the sale, George, who was serving as MM&T’s President at the time, said, “We will now be able to expand beyond our current capabilities with the backing of the substantial Mail-Well printing organization.”
George remained with the organization until his retirement in September 2002. The MM&T operation would continue to evolve as a North American printing powerhouse. In 2013, the facility would see a technology investment of more than $6 million to install a 14-unit Heidelberg Speedmaster XL 106 sheetfed press (featured in PrintAction’s May 2015 cover story.)
In 2015, printing giant WestRock Company entered into a definitive agreement worth approximately US$105 million to acquire Cenveo’s Packaging interests, involving six Cenveo facilities across North America, which generated more than US$190 million in revenue in the previous fiscal year. This deal included Cenveo Packaging's most-prominent Canadian facility, MM&T, in large part built by the innovation and strategic insight of Al George.
Al George visitation and funeral details
Family and friends may gather at the Ward Funeral Home on Friday May 13, 2016, from 6-9 pm. A Celebration of Alan George’s life will be held on Saturday May 14, 2016, at the Ward Funeral Home at noon.
The Mikia purchase is the most-recent example of a range of strategic investments led by Alpha Poly President Patrick Kerrigan, who took over leadership of the 50,000-square-foot operation in 2012, succeeding his father, Paul, who founded Alpha Poly in 1989. Kerrigan has been shifting Alpha Poly’s business approach since leading a lean-manufacturing audit in 2009, followed by a branding change, a new sales approach, and ultimately a multi-million-dollar capital equipment investment.
In 2013, Alpha Poly installed a massive 8-colour MIRAFLEX AM from Windmoeller & Hoelscher to produce higher-end process print jobs. This investment was followed by a decisive push to capture the growth in multi-laminates with a Nordmeccanica Super Simplex SL laminator. With the support of family members holding key leadership roles, including Matthew Kerrigan, Stephanie Kerrigan and Martin Boeykens, Alpha Poly is positioning itself as one of Canada’s leading independent companies in the robust flexography sector.
Kerrigan worked outside of the family business for 15 years after going to school for broadcast journalism at Mohawk College in Hamilton, Ont., which ultimately led to a career in post-production for television and movies. Kerrigan explains this experience allowed him to learn about his own approach in the business world before joining Alpha Poly. “I love to work with people and to mentor,” he says. “It is exciting to watch people grow – helping their families grow.”
When Kerrigan led the lean audit for Alpha Poly in 2009, he faced difficult decisions of managing a manufacturing business, particularly one that has worked to foster a family-like atmosphere across the entire operation. Following the audit, Kerrigan estimates Alpha Poly reduced its labour by 30 percent and increased its output by 80 percent. “The return on investment was paid back in a year,” he says, noting how much discipline it took to institute the changes; for example, having one operator work two packing machines instead of a traditional one-to-one ratio.
Just prior to the lean-manufacturing audit, Alpha Poly had purchased the assets of a struggling London, Ont., operation that had succumbed to selling work below cost, an easy trap to fall into in any printing sector. “You need to know and understand your costs,” says Kerrigan, who was preparing to have the same lean analyst return in February to reset Alpha Poly’s base after the past three years of change management to branding and sales.
“It is great to see things moving ahead,” says Paul Kerrigan, who continues to attend major management meetings. “Patrick is driving the ship. We have a lot of good workers and that is a big part of making your business successful. It is exciting to come in and hear about all of the things going on.”
As he began to transition into leading Alpha Poly, Kerrigan leveraged years of broadcasting experience to evaluate the company’s brand position, which lacked a concrete marketing plan. Alpha Poly’s eight-year-old Website was in need of a revamp to better support the sales structure and any future manufacturing investments.
“When people heard about us, because our name used to be Alpha Polybag, the first thing was ‘Oh, you do the shopping bags for the grocery stores,’” Kerrigan says, noting the company had also been printing roll stock for a long time, as well as reverse printing on polyesters. “We re-launched our name to let people know we are not just a bag manufacturer.
“At that time, I knew the next phase of the company was to get into multi-laminates because you could see back then it was a growing market,” Kerrigan says, recalling reports that indicated multi-laminates would experience eight or nine percent worldwide growth year over year. “Everything is moving from rigids like plastic clamshells and jars to stand-up pouches, so I knew it was a market you wanted to be in.”
Developing new markets
Kerrigan explains a key driver of Alpha Poly’s strategy began to unfold in late-2012 when he crossed paths with David Mailman, who was helping to lead packaging manufacturer Multipak Ltd., which was in the process of shuttering its operation.
The high-end flexo knowledge of Mailman fit perfectly with Kerrigan’s plans to move Alpha Poly into new markets, which would require investing in the new press. “The stars aligned,” Kerrigan says. Mailman arrived in early 2013 to take over Kerrigan’s role as Plant Manager and to help direct the company’s capital investment.
This allowed Kerrigan to focus on melding Alpha Poly’s rebrand with a new sales approach. “I kept feeling that every time we came into our monthly management meetings we were always looking in the rearview mirror – what happened in the month before,” Kerrigan says.
He brought in an outside firm to review the sales strategy and a decision was made to implement the Salesforce.com CRM tool. At the time, Kerrigan explains Alpha Poly was generating healthy but flat annual revenue growth of around six percent. “We started setting targets for everybody and measuring,” he says. “People want to do better, but if you do not have anything to measure you do not know how well you are doing.” A sales roadmap was put in place to steer away from a shotgun approach and instead focus on what constitutes an ideal Alpha Poly customer.
In its most recent fiscal year, Alpha Poly experienced year over year revenue growth of slightly more than 20 percent. “We know where we are going because we can see everything in our pipeline,” Kerrigan says. “We can do accurate budgeting now… plus you have metrics that everybody is looking at.” The reinvigorated sales structure is also supported by a new business-development approach led by Kate Davis and former HP Canada trailblazer Debra Swift.
The February 2016 arrival of Vaughan Campbell, former owner of Mikia, who takes on a prominent technical sales role with Alpha Poly, helps establish one of the strongest senior leadership teams in Canadian flexography, with a technical and strategic ability to reach into completely new flexo markets. One of the most promising aspects of Alpha Poly’s new direction is that it currently only generates around five percent of its business from the United States.
With all of the investments in people and technologies, Kerrigan continues to focus on bottom-line growth. “We have to keep this cog going and we have really invested in this team to help us,” he says. “Our next goal… I would like to see in the next couple of years a 10-colour press in here.”